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‘We warned you’: Call for urgent action after Britons living in EU denied entry

Campaigners for the rights of Britons living in Europe have called for urgent action after numerous reports of UK citizens being denied entry to the EU countries where they live since January 1st.

'We warned you': Call for urgent action after Britons living in EU denied entry
Britons living in the EU have been turned away from airports. File photo: AFP

In recent days there have been numerous reports of Britons travelling from the UK being unable to return to the countries where they live.

The issues have arisen in part due to Brexit and the end of the transition period on December 31st which brought an end to free movement for UK nationals but also due to the UK's surging Covid-19 rates.

Numerous EU countries imposed strict travel restrictions on travellers from the UK following the emergence of a new, highly contagious strain of Covid-19 before Christmas.

Added to that is the fact the UK is now a “third-country” and so is subject to the EU's ban on all but essential travel to the bloc.

British residents of EU countries, however, have the right to return to their homes, subject to rules on Covid-19 tests and quarantine, but this wasn't the case when several Britons were denied entry to Spain over the weekend.

They were told they didn't have the right post-Brexit residency card – even though Spanish authorities have repeatedly said they didn't need it.

There have also been similar reports of airlines turning away Britons trying to return home to Germany, the Netherlands and Italy.

There have been also reports of British residents wrongly having their passports stamped on entry to their EU home country. With British visitors only allowed to stay for 90-days in every 180-day period, an erroneous passport stamp could cause significant bureaucratic headaches for residents.

Britons living across Europe had been warned that if they travel over the New Year they would need to take proof of residency with them to ensure they would be allowed back in.

But it appears that across Europe there is confusion, with airlines and local border officers appearing to impose their own take on the new rules. 

Campaign group British in Europe has called for urgent action and said it had been warning about the probability of complications.

“This is a serious situation when people face problems getting home although they have a clear right to do so,” the group said in a statement.

“If this is an indication of the problems ahead, the UK government, member states and the Commission need to take this seriously now and get their acts together to make sure our rights are enforced.

“As early as 2017, British in Europe raised concerns about potential problems in the post-transition treatment of UK citizens resident in the EU. We have been raising them ever since – repeatedly over the last month as the second wave of Covid-19 has surged across the EU and its now third-country neighbour. 

“Despite this, there are multiple cases of British citizens who have been unable to return to the EU states which have been their homes for years between Christmas and New Year because of the misapplication of Covid-19 entry restrictions. Now, one day after the end of transition, we have multiple potential breaches across different EU countries of the Withdrawal Agreement rights of UK beneficiaries.”

The group says the problem appears to be that national border guards and airlines are not being kept up to date and informed of the rights of British residents of the EU which are protected under the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement.

As a result, those rights have been “breached” in many cases.

British in Europe is now demanding urgent action.

“We call on the member states to ensure that border guards are fully informed on the Withdrawal Agreement entry rights of UK beneficiaries and that they are implemented correctly and immediately.

“We call on the EU Commission to monitor this and take action in the case of infringements.

“We also need advice on remedies for British citizens denied boarding, for those who have erroneously had their passport stamped on exit or entry and, particularly, for anybody who has been allowed to fly to their host state only to be deported back to the UK.

“Otherwise, despite having done everything they should have done in line with the Withdrawal Agreement, further British citizens resident in the EU may have problems returning to their homes in their host states or find themselves unwittingly in breach of the 90-day rule at the beginning of April with all the administrative and other problems that this could imply for their residence status.”

The Local has asked the EU Commission to respond the difficulties facing British residents in Europe.

Have you been wrongly been barred from travelling home to the country you are resident in? Please get in touch and let us know about your experience. Email: [email protected]

 

Member comments

  1. we will be travelling from london to florence on the 8th. january
    as we own a company in tuscany, i am assuming we will not have a problem entering the country, as long as we agree to a 14 day quarantine. also, it is my understanding that we do to need to have a covid test prior to, or after arrival. please can anyone confirm this, or let me know if you have had any problems entering italy after the 31st dec? thank you

  2. It would appear from your own article that it is the UK border patrol which is in ignorance of the rules of the EU member states so I don’t see why the campaign group is addressing itself to the EU Commission.

  3. Stop the lot of them. Their country’s Virus reaction is tragically incompetent, yet many British, with their Inselaffe exceptionalism and arrogance, still think going skiing is a valid reason to travel. The EU should bar all but absolutely crucial travel from the UK and UK citizens with residency rights.
    Time will hopefully make travel easier again, and if and when it does, do it. But right now, it’s a selfish fools errand. Stay put. Other people live on this planet too.

  4. I totally agree with the previous comment. I am British and full-time resident in Italy. I would be horrified if anyone from the UK arrived in my village in Italy at present, whether they have a home or property here or not. We are talking matters of life and death here. People in Europe call this new strain “the English” virus. If you didn’t understand this before you set off from the UK, or decided to travel to the UK and back to Europe whilst the virus is running amok in the UK, I have no sympathy for you whatsoever. You are totally selfish and, as the previous commentator says, arrogant and suffering from a sense of entitlement. I’m embarrassed by some of my fellow countrymen and women.

  5. I would totally agree that a skiing holiday is less than a crucial reason to travel in these frightening and dangerous times we find ourselves in, however, as a Brit who regularly travels between the U.K. and Italy I take great offence at being assumed arrogant and entitled. It’s with great sadness and disappointment that such unprecedented tragedy is now giving some people the misplaced sense of entitlement to pass judgement of other human beings, based on their government’s incompetences, without first taking into consideration valid reasonings behind them risking travel at the moment. It’s almost xenophobic, and wouldn’t it be devastating if that was the legacy of this pandemic?! I would question if it’s ‘really selfish’ to travel having tested negative for COVID 48 hours before travelling and quarantining on arrival in order to support a partner/family member in their time of need. Is it selfish to visit your long term partner? Is it selfish to visit a family member for the very last time? Or indeed is travelling for business purposes selfish? Unfortunately , we can’t all work from home, we can’t all be furloughed and do not all qualify for government aid, but do still have to keep a roof over our heads so have to go where work takes us. Let’s not let this pandemic conquer and divide our compassion, regardless of what country we live in! It’s extremely difficult now as all our patience is wearing thin, but perhaps now is the time for tolerance and we should take some time to consider others circumstances because I can assure you we don’t all travel just for a holiday. Between Brexit and Covid it is a minefield for anyone needing to travel at the moment and I hope that the complications and additional costs have not put further strain on your mental health. Let’s hope better days are coming and that we can hopefully retain some compassion for one another when it’s all over. I hope everyone can keep themselves and your loved ones safe. Just for the record we aren’t all running a mock over here in England either… some of us have more integrity than that and are suffering great losses in order to keep people we love safe.

  6. Pretty simple really. Just instruct the border staff to ask ALL British entrants “did you for vote leave or remain”? If the answer is “leave” then refuse entry and tell the F off

  7. Pretty simple really. Just instruct the border staff to ask ALL British entrants “did you for vote leave or remain”? If the answer is “leave” then refuse entry and tell them F off

  8. I flew stansted to cologne on 1 January and Ryanair did deny some people without covid tests but everything else went smooth. I am British living in Germany and I was given a stamp in my U.K. passport. When I questioned it and showed my anmeldung, he simply said the U.K. has left the EU. I know he believed me to be resident as only residents abs citizens were allowed to enter Germany from U.K. on the 1st.

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BREXIT

What is the latest on Gibraltar’s Brexit status?

With 2023 approaching and negotiations between Gibraltar, the UK, EU and Spain dragging on for yet another year, what is the latest on Gibraltar and Brexit? Will they reach a deal before New Year and how could it affect life in Gibraltar and Spain?

What is the latest on Gibraltar's Brexit status?

As British politics tries to move on from Brexit, the tiny British territory at the southern tip of Spain, Gibraltar, has been stuck in political limbo since the referendum all the way back in 2016.

Gibraltar, which voted in favour of Remain during the referendum by a whopping 96 percent, was not included in the Brexit deal and has instead relied on a framework agreement made between the UK and Spain on New Year’s Eve in 2020.

After that framework was laid out, it was hoped that the various parties – that is, the Gibraltarian government, Spain, the EU, and the UK – would build on it and quickly find a wider treaty agreement establishing Gibraltar’s place on the European mainland in the post-Brexit world.

It was thought that Gibraltar could enter into a common travel area with the Schengen zone, limiting border controls and essentially creating a custom-made customs arrangement with the EU.

But since then, the negotiation process has stopped and started, with no deal being made and uncertainty dragging on through 2021.

Despite all parties still being relatively optimistic in the spring of 2022, no resolution has been found and 2023 is approaching.

Relying on the framework agreement alone, uncertainty about what exactly the rules are and how they should be implemented have caused confusion and long delays on the border.

The roadblocks

Progress in the multi-faceted negotiations to bash out a treaty and determine Gibraltar’s place in the post-Brexit world have repeatedly stumbled over the same roadblocks.

The main one is the issue of the border. Known in Spain and Gibraltar as La Línea – meaning ‘the line’ in reference to the Spanish town directly across the border, La Línea de la Concepción – the subject of the border and who exactly will patrol it (and on which side) has been a constant sticking point in negotiations.

Madrid and Brussels have approached the British government with a proposal for removing the border fence between Spain and Gibraltar in order to ease freedom of movement, Spain’s Foreign Minister José Manuel Albares said in late November 2022. There has been no immediate response from London.

The Gibraltarians refuse to accept Spanish boots on the ground and would prefer the European-wide Frontex border force. The British government feel this would be an impingement on British sovereignty. There’s also been the persistent issues of VAT and corporation tax considerations, as well as the British Navy base and how to police the waters around it.

Though there had been reports that the ongoing British driving license in Spain fiasco had been one of the reasons negotiations had stalled, the British ambassador to Spain Hugh Elliot categorically denied any connection between the issue of Gibraltar’s Brexit deal and British driving licence recognition earlier in November.

READ ALSO: CONFIRMED: Deal on UK licences in Spain agreed but still no exchange date

On different pages?

Not only do the long-standing sticking points remain, but it also seems that the various negotiating parties are on slightly different pages with regards to how exactly each seems to think the negotiations are going.

Judging by reports in the Spanish press in recent weeks, it appears that many in Spain may believe the negotiations are wrapping up and a conclusion could be found by New Year. This perception comes largely from comments made by Pascual Navarro, Spain’s State Secretary to the EU. Speaking to reporters in Brussels, Navarro claimed that negotiations have advanced so well that they were now only working ‘on the commas’ of the text – that is to say, tidying it up.

According to Gibraltar’s Chief Minister Fabian Picardo, though negotiations are ongoing, “we’re not there yet”. (Photo: JORGE GUERRERO/AFP)

“No issue that is blocked,” he said. “All of the text is on the table.” A full treaty, he suggested, could be signed “before the end of the year.”

Yet it seems the Gibraltarians don’t quite see the progress as positively as their neighbours. Last week the Gibraltar government, known as No.6, acknowledged Navarro’s optimism.

According to Gibraltar’s Chief Minister Fabian Picardo however, though negotiations are ongoing, “we’re not there yet”.

No.6 remains positive and hopes for a deal, but in recent weeks has also published technical contingency plans for businesses to prepare for what they are calling a ‘Non-Negotiated Outcome’ – effectively a ‘no-deal’ in normal Brexit jargon.

The UK, however, seem to be somewhere in the middle. Like Navarro, the British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly recently suggested at a House of Commons select committee that only “a relatively small number” of issues remain to be resolved.

However, he also acknowledged the possibility of a non-negotiated outcome. “I think it’s legitimate to look at that [planning for a non-negotiated outcome] as part of our thinking,” Mr Cleverly said. “But obviously we are trying to avoid an NNO.”

Election year

If no deal is found by New Year, that would mean that negotiations drag into 2023 – election years for both Picardo and Pedro Sánchez, Spain’s Prime Minister.

Gibraltar is expected to have elections sometime in the second-half of the year, and Sánchez has to call an election by the end of 2023.

In many ways, Spanish domestic politics has the potential to play a far greater role in Gibraltar’s fate than British politics. In fact, the shadow of Spanish politics looms over these negotiations and the future relationship between Spain and Gibraltar, the UK and Spain, and the UK and EU.

If Sánchez’s PSOE were to lose the election, which according to the latest polling data is the most probable outcome, then it would be likely that Spain’s centre-right party PP would seek to renegotiate, if not outright reject, any deal made.

READ ALSO: Who will win Spain’s 2023 election – Sánchez or Feijóo?

If PP are unable to secure a ruling majority, however, they may well be forced to rely on the far-right party Vox, who have often used nationalist anti-Gibraltar rhetoric as a political weapon. If Vox were to enter into government, which is unlikely but a possibility, it’s safe to say any agreement – if one is even reached before then – would be torn up and the Spanish government would take a much harder line in negotiations.

As the consequences of Brexit churn on in Britain, in Gibraltar uncertainty looms.

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